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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Landscape with Invisible Hand

Landscape with Invisible HandLandscape with Invisible Hand, M.T. Anderson
Candlewick, September 2017
Reviewed from ARC; five stars

It’s not fun to lose, and as readers, we don’t usually take pleasure in witnessing our protagonists suffer and fail at every challenge they face. Yet we also know that failure, yes failure, can be highly instructive and valuable. In Landscape with Invisible Hand, Adam does nothing but fail in the short vignettes that make up M.T. Anderson’s latest novel. It’s science-fiction satire that goes down easy but has a clear agenda. Anderson’s a previous Printz honoree, for both Octavian Nothing books, and he’s a consistently great writer, even if he isn’t winning all the awards every time out. Landscape doesn’t have the momentum of American Street or The Hate U Give but that doesn’t mean it can’t surprise us in February.

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When I am Through with You

through with you

When I am Through With You, Stephanie Kuehn
Dutton, August 2017
Reviewed from a final copy

Today I get to talk about one of my favorite authors, Stephanie Kuehn. She has a new title out this year, When I am Through With You, and it got some comment-love earlier in the season as one to definitely include on our longlist. It’s always so fun to dive back in with an author that you like; this time around, we’re looking at a title with one starred review. We have a story that ends up being a somewhat mixed bag, at least for me; it’s a psychological thriller combined with survival fiction — a group of teens working through a lot of trauma and feelings must survive a school camping trip beset by a blizzard. [Read more…]

Jane, Unlimited

jane unlimited

It’s time for another joint conversation about a book. We had a great time last time, and are hoping to have just as much fun again. These are the times this blog feels most like committee work, where we’re all at the table (metaphorically), and all ready to talk about the same book — but all coming with our own perspectives, our own perceptions of “literary” and “great” and “important”. We may not always agree, but we have the opportunity to really hear what we all have to say about a title. It’s in the conversation that a winner can be found. This time, we’re looking at a title that has had two starred reviews. [Read more…]

Long Way Down

Long Way Down coverThere’s a weird kind of bookending happening this year; we opened with the biggest buzz for early 2017 books belonging to The Hate U Give and we’re closing 2017 with the biggest buzz for the end of the year going to Long Way Down, two books that look at violence in largely black, urban communities from different directions. While The Hate U Give was about the violence perpetrated on young black men by the system, specifically police, Long Way Down tackles the violence perpetrated on young black men by young black men — which, ok, is still the fault of the system, because systemic racism has a long and ugly reach, but centers the story in a very different place. Bookends. So does that mean that Long Way Down is due for an award of its own? [Read more…]

Fantasy You Don’t Want to Miss, a Two-fer

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 9.55.31 PMLet’s talk about heart books. Because today I want to call your attention to two books that are long shots at best, but which I loved them dearly as a reader. More than that, despite the flaws that I predict will ultimately sink them, these are strong books that deserve close attention. Both are contemporary fantasy, one in the magic realism vein and the other in the send up all the tropes and take no prisoners vein. (Ok, that’s a pretty niche vein, but still.) Other than genre, their bisexual protagonists (something I didn’t put together until halfway through this review), and their likely distance from medal territory these don’t have much in common – but that’s ok, because every book deserves to be considered on its own.

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It’s Not Like It’s a Secret

Secret

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
HarperTeen, May 2017
Reviewed from a final copy

So today we have a realistic coming of age/first love story, and it’s sweet and especially earnest. With one star review, this isn’t a book that’s making major waves; but it’s important to remember that starred reviews aren’t really a predictor for the Printz award. There’s enough about It’s Not Like It’s a Secret that feels fresh and engaging that I could see a long conversation happening at the RealCommittee table. Will that be enough for a medal at the end of the year? WHO CAN SAY? (I am about to try to say.) [Read more…]

Midnight

Midnight at the ElectricI’ve been dragging my feet with this one. I have plenty of excuses: the holiday weekend, my son’s (minor) surgery, major new unit coming up at school that I need to plan for. But those are just hot air; I have managed to write up books under far less ideal circumstances. Really it was that the posts where I point out flaws in widely acclaimed books are my least favorite to write.

And yet I keep doing it! So once more into the fray, my friends.

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Realistic Roundup

Here on this holiday weekend (for some, but not for others, I know!), I thought we could have a brief whirlwind of a realistic roundup. We’ve already featured a grouping of funny girls, today we have a slightly smaller set of lady-centric fiction. They’re not all funny, but they are all realistic, they are all heartfelt, and they’re all here today. They run the range of zero to one star ratings. As is often the case with our roundups, they may not be titles RealCommittee may agree on, but that doesn’t preclude their inclusion in the conversation — they just might be titles that individual committee members come to the table to argue for. And remember — we’ve still got our Nominations post up, so make sure you speak up there if you have a book you want to champion! [Read more…]

The Pearl Thief

The Pearl ThiefI’ve been avoiding this review like the plague. I scrubbed my bathtub this afternoon in an attempt to not write this post, in fact, and I don’t know what my hang up is, really, except that this is not Code Name Verity but it is about Julie and so I have many feelings that have nothing to do with the book in front of me or with literary excellence and have only to do with the fact that I’m a little in love with a brash, fearless, fictional girl who died too young. So, baggage. On the upside, I’ve read The Pearl Thief twice now, and for me at least, it improves upon acquaintance. I think the first time it was the baggage at work; I wasn’t entirely reading The Pearl Thief so much as I was mining it for Julie. The second time, I read it for exactly what it was — a fascinating set piece, a tidy little mystery, a crafty study of class and race* and gender. And the formation of a young woman who, ok, is someday soon going to be the astounding protagonist of Code Name Verity but who is actually a fantastic character before that, and who can carry a book even for a reader who didn’t know what was coming down the pike.

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Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Before we get into Vincent and Theo, I want to acknowledge that the National Book Awards were announced on Wednesday evening and the winner for Young People’s Literature was Robin Benway’s Far From the Tree. I’ll be covering that one later in the season and I’ve been intrigued since before it was longlisted for the NBA. I’m adopted and periodically grumble about the lack of contemporary YA fiction with adopted protagonists. While I’m excited for the representation I’m also cautiously optimistic, as one usually is when faced with your identity as written by someone else. If you’ve already read Far From the Tree and have thoughts about its NBA win, let us know in the comments!

Okay, now back to those Van Gogh boys. I’ll confess that I can’t think about Vincent Van Gogh without hearing Don McLean sing “starry, starry niiiight…” or seeing Tony Curran’s eyes well up with tears in his brilliant portrayal of Van Gogh on Doctor Who. He is one of the most famous painters of all time and we all think we know who he was; brilliant, depressed, and unappreciated in his time. Deborah Heiligman challenges the conventional wisdom and offers a thesis of her own about Vincent: the story of Vincent is incomplete without the story of his brother, Theo.

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